20 Cultural Mistakes to Avoid in Korea – Page 3 – Seoulistic

20 Cultural Mistakes to Avoid in Korea

14. Not sharing

Source: blogspot

So one afternoon in the office you feel a little peckish hence you go out and buy yourself some potato chips to snack on. You are then busy enjoying the snacks all by yourself in the office and before you know it all your colleagues are looking at you frowning or staring at your potato chips hoping to have a nibble too. This is because in Korea it is a ‘sharing’ culture. It is a special concept in which Koreans call ‘jeong’ and it is a special kind of love between the people and society. If you don’t share you will be seen as a little greedy and have little or no ‘jeong’. To find out more about this special kind of ‘love’ in Korea check out this special article and video on ‘jeong’.

15. Talking loudly on the bus or subway

Any loud noise anywhere can be a little disturbing, and what more disturbing noise can you get than people talking loudly on public transport? You may think people will just try and ignore it, but Koreans will not hesitate and tell you to actually ‘be quiet’, especially the tired ones who are trying to catch up on sleep on the way to work. In some extreme cases it is possible to get scolded even in a restaurant for speaking too loudly. It is not to say you should only whisper when talking to your friends. Just watch out for the volume you’re making when you are with your friends….or experience the wrath of a tired ahjumma or ahjussi 😉

16. Turning up to someone’s apartment empty handed

Koreans really like their privacy so it is not common for people to invite people over to their homes as often as some people do in other parts of the world. So if a Korean family invites you over to their apartment for the first time, that’s a pretty big deal and it’s awesome for them to do so. And don’t you want to be awesome back? Giving a gift shows that you have manners in Korea and it also says “thanks for inviting me over” or “sorry for intruding your private space T_T”. No clue as to what gifts to get for Korean families? Find out more here!

Source: christyenglish

17. Not paying for round 2

Usually when you eat dinner with an older person he or she will generally buy you the whole meal. Why? It’s just a Korean custom. Your older friend might be working so they will have their own money to treat you. In order to return that kind gesture you can either pay for the next meal or pay for round 2! Round 2 can vary from getting some dessert or to just simply going to a café for some coffee. What looks really bad is when your friend pays for the dinner and you still try to calculate to split the bill for round 2!

To know more about how ‘rounds’ work click here!

Source: aliimg.com

18. Clothing which expose your shoulders (girls only)

Although society is slowly changing in Korea, it still remains quite a conservative country. Hence what you wear can give off certain impressions of yourself. In Korean society girls who wear clothing which expose their shoulder blades are considered too ‘sexual’ or ‘too revealing, more so than girls who wear super short mini-skirts. However as mentioned before, the society is changing and you can see women today wearing clothes which show a little bit of shoulder, but the majority today still covers them up….but super mini-skirts and hot pants are still completely acceptable. =/

19. Showing the bottom of your shoe or foot

Some of you might already think “when and why on Earth would I show someone the bottom of my foot?!” Usually guys like to cross their legs the way in which one foot rests on the other knee. This then shows the bottom of your shoe! Especially in a working environment or when talking to the elders, showing the bottom of your shoe is a sign of disrespect! Ensure to keep both legs on the ground or you can cross your legs in a way that doesn’t show the bottom of your shoe. Let’s just hope it doesn’t hurt too much when doing that (if you know what I mean guys 😉 )

20. Leaving tips

Source: blogspot

One of my favourite things about Korea is that there is no need nor are you expected to give tips for any services. With the exception of some tourist hotels, 10% service charge may be already added to your bill. You are not expected to tip in taxis too however it is possible to tell the driver to keep the change (usually anything less than 1000 won). Be careful however as sometimes tipping can be considered an insult, so it’s best not tip overall than risking offense to someone right? 😉

Are there any rules or traditional customs that foreigners should be aware of in your country? Let us know by commenting below ^^

Words by Ken Lee (Photographer and Korean lifestyle blogger of Seoul State of Mind). Check out his daily updates and portfolio on his Facebook page!

Ken Lee
Ken Lee
Born and raised in London UK, and currently residing in Korea, Ken Lum Lee is currently an English Teacher at a middle school in Gwangju and the blogger and photographer behind the Korean lifestyle blog Seoul State of Mind. Ken enjoys travelling around Korea, aiming to capture the unique beauties, discover stories and secret hideouts of Korea. Ken can usually be seen with his camera, which is currently the love of his life, and pigging out in Korean BBQ restaurants. Check out his awesome blog: www.seoulstateofmind.com For regular updates, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


  1. Joseph says:

    Thanks for the best advice about cultural mistakes to avoid in Korea. I like this article to much !

  2. weepingwillow says:

    I am… stunned, shocked, at just how SIMILAR this is to German culture. I grew up in a very traditional german society in rural pennsylvania, and this is just… wow… for 2 countries that have not traditionally had contact with each other, who would have guessed they would be so similar??? Some other things with german (pennsylvania-dutch) culture: you ALWAYS address those older than you by last name as a sign of respect, NEVER first name. Children do not sit in the front seats of cars, they are just children (lower in status than adults) and thus must sit in the back, even if there is no one else in the car. Is this also true in Korea???

    • Hur says:

      weepingwillow, I have no idea what you are talking about. German culture is not even close to Korean culture. You don’t address elders with their last name, you just address your friends and relatives with their first name. This has nothing to do with age.

      • Spackp says:

        Not entirely correct. You address everybody in the professional environment or people that are way older than older than you with the exception of friends and relatives with their last name. If your old then nobody gives a crap. You can do both to everybody. Children are addressed to with their last name in circumstances that require formality for everyone like contracts.

        But yeah, German culture is very different from Korean culture. Almost nothing on this list can be applied to Germany.

        • brensgrrl says:

          WeepingWillow was talking about AMISH culture, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. AMISH culture has nothing to do with the nation of Germany, but it does have certain peculiar cultural characteristics. I live in Pennsylvania near the heart of Amish Country, and I know that Weeping Willow is correct. Many of the Korean cultural norms do seem to be mirrored in the Amish community.

    • Tommy Shin says:

      I am 1.5 generation Korean/ American and I have been to Lancaster Penn for Dutch Wonderland with my kids. I thought I was strange to feel like this Penn Dutch land was like my second home. How people do and show respect, I always feel like being home in Lancaster. There are huge population of Amish folks and people who are not Amish also have been somewhat influenced by Amish in terms of respect etc… At least, that was how it looked like. I have been to many places in the US. There was no place like Lancaster. It was like my second home. Also I have been fascinated by the Amish culture for a long time because it reminds of my childhood back in 80s. Yes, Amish culture is extremely similar to Korean culture (especially older days of Korean culture).

      The society is getting worse and losing human respect and tradition. In many aspect people may think that we don’t need all that stupid tradition and culture. However, those human culture was developed with reason and it has evolved through human primary instinct. Unfortunately, ideologist and smarty idiots are trying to change all these tradition by book and law. Now divorce rate 50% and rate of happiness nearly on the bottom, and all these social bullshit is happening. It is because people are not happy because their primary instinct is not being satisfied.

      Often I hear women even the feminist ones saying, there aren’t enough “men” out there. When they said “men”, they are talking about “men” who can trigger their primary instinct, but now days, most men (movies, dramas) are nothing but giggly fucking pussies, who ends up in their “friend zone”. Men used to take charge, they made decision, and they had ego self esteem and they work outside building things not stuck in the offices with bunch of females and gossip, complain, giggly bitch ass gossiping. Men comes back home from long day of outside work were actually respected by kids and their wives. It is important to see the social problem why women are feeling boring. It is sometime important to get back to the human tradition and act like classic men. You will be surprised how women and people around you will pay respect. As I said, traditional thinking is boring and old ass, but there is reason why they existed through human evolution, and people are now trying hard to ignore them. I believe that most of social fucking bull shit problem will vanish if Amish folks teach our kids in school with 1/10 of their belief. Ofcourse they can’t put 100% Amish belief straight down into the modern kids, but just 10%, our society will change with positive effect. Just look around and try to be warm human to anyone around you 2 times a day, it will be better society than yesterday.

      K pop is not popular because of fancy clothes and music dance bullshit. We already have that in hollywood, bill board chart. It is their lyric and their belief that are appealing to their primal instinct. We can try to ignore human tradition, but our primal instinct will attract it whether you like it or not. We are human before all these ideology and new civil law.

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  4. dieyb says:

    Encountered #1 when I’ve been to Seoul and Busan for first time last year.

    Two of my friends sitting at elderly seats in subway, then one of the ahjumma/ahjushi asked them to stand-up while pointing at the sign. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

  5. Fatemeh says:

    It’s really interesting to see how much Iran and Korea have in common in terms of social codes like showing respect for the elders, not wearing shoes at home, not putting your spoon in the the food you eat, using both hands when giving or taking things from someone and …. .

  6. Silvia says:

    I’m currently writing a book where the main place is in Seoul,Korea so you really helped me! I still have a few questions about their reporters and I hope I will find the answers soon …

  7. Spackp says:

    weepingwillow: Not correct. You address everybody in the professional environment or people that are way older than older than you with the exception of friends and relatives with their last name. If your old then nobody gives a crap. You can do both to everybody. Children are addressed to with their last name in circumstances that require formality for everyone like contracts.

    But yeah, German culture is very different from Korean culture. Almost nothing on this list can be applied to Germany.

  8. Kin Modesto Sugai says:

    Well, for Brazil, we have many cultural traces that can vary with the region. Mostly, the Brazilian greeting is a hug or a kiss on the cheek for girls( girls+ girls or boys+girls) and a handshake for boys(boys+boys) unless they are close( hugs are common). Brazilians are really intimate with everything, so it’s common to have a lot of physical contact, even with strangers. There isn’t much difference in the treatment of older people and the younger ones in general, except the fact that they have priority on the things. The families are more united as in affection and caring. People are always late for meetings and, when you are punctual, there is a possibility to receive bad glares, even though for work that doesn’t count. Football is a important matter to Brazilians, so, if you are a stranger, it’s better for you to get used to get invited to pubs just to watch a match and choose your time wisely. It’s like a life or death decision. Seriously. A lunch meeting can turn into a day meal. Usually they are long, especially the ones with sea food and barbecue. You can go to your friend’s house for lunch and only get out past midnight with JUST one meal. Talk with people looking in their eyes. It’s a sign of respect and trust. Lastly, it’s important to warn you about the slums, especially the Rio’s, because they have their own rules. It’s better to you to stay out of them as much as possible. One tip is to, if you ever step in there by car, to open your windows for them to see than you are not from there or with the policy. If you don’t do this, you are as much as dead, considering they didn’t shoot you when you entered. People who live there have a system that condemn whoever commits a crime in the region, so they are pretty much safe. They kill all the criminals when they step out of the jail.

  9. Emy says:

    Great. I’m currently compiling a list of some strange or interesting cultures and these just came at the right time.

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  11. Ulises says:

    I sit in the elderly seats al the time and I as soon as I see an old people, pregnant woman or somebody that n eds the seat I stand up, never had a problem or somebody told me to stand up. You can refuse to drink no problem, blowing your nose at the table… BS! Some Koreans are experts in the art of spitting is really disgusting to eat and the guy right in front of you is giving you de runny nose sound over and over. So DO BLOW YOUR NOSE PLEASE. Sticking you por chopsticks in the rice is no problem, that is more Japanese I guess , can’t tell you how much disgusting things I’ve seen that old Koreans and young Koreans as well they do at the table. Please stop picturing the Koran people as hermetic non tolerable closed people, they are quite the contrary, they are open, fun and very curious.

  12. Jason says:

    They are aggressive and rude.

  13. Daniela says:

    What about waiting to order or for your food in the restaurant? I had a strange experience during my stay in Seoul when one Lady after inviting us to the table she ignore us for more then 20min. She surpose to take the order and bring us the food, but instead she evoid just our table and we had to wait for a second Lady. The Restaurant was not full and the next customers finished eating before we make the order. What it’s custom to do in this case in Corea? Go …no go?
    Situation 2: We have order but our Boy forgot completely our order. We had our drinks but no food. After 30min. ( romanian & german patience limits) I get the Boy attention with an questioning look! He start apologizing and bowing so many times that we instantly start smiling and forgot the incident. We forgive him right away … but we made a bet too. Sorry, we couldn’t help it. I bet that he will not come to our table or around it till the end of the evening. I won off course. Custom in Europe is that after a service mistake like this, the Service Personal and expecialy the person how made the mistake should give full attention to his customers trying to recover the mistake. In same european countries after having the drinks and 15-20 min. waiting for the food, I might be entitle to leave the place and don’t pay for anything. How is in Corea? What should I expect in this situation? Advises welcome!

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  18. Jean Wilson says:

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  19. Sephora mia says:

    I didn’t even understand completely obviously I am not Korean but still I am a huge fan of korean people and there ritual afterall I only understand some of it. But I am definitely going to use that red to write a letter to my ex who cheated on me🤭

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  21. Daniella says:

    yeah.This is great.

    but no 14 about sharing. is nice but really is it very bad? second is it everytime cos let me be honest i can get extremely peckish and choose not to share and not even look at those glaring eyes🙄 eat my snack and trash and get back to work. it ain’t bad right?
    i see that 14 as people being greedy…except is a friend and i will love to share occasionly. I could get stingy sometimes…😅

  22. Penny says:

    There are Korean Amish????
    That sounds strange. I would love to get a pic, but I HIGHLY doubt one even exists.
    Amish don’t like thier pictures taken, correct?

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